You’ve got to have a certain mindset to get involved in mountain bike advocacy work. You might think it’s about diplomacy, tolerance, understanding and patience. But talk to anyone involved for any length of time and they’ll tell you that one thing is required in buckets.
Which is why, when Peak District MTB founding member Paul Richardson was asked to reconsider his decision to step down after nearly a decade on the committee, there was no moving him. For if Paul embodies one personality trait above any, stubbornness it is.
From the early days of Peak District MTB his steadfast refusal to budge on his principles has made him a formidable force to have in a debate. Especially when he’s on your side.
Peak District MTB would likely not exist were it not for Paul’s efforts; his determination to overcome the stacked arguments against mountain bike access in the Peak District, and his determination to ensure that the smaller voice has its share of the conversation in outdoors forums. And it’s no small thanks to Paul that Peak District MTB has become one of the UK’s largest representative groups for mountain biking advocacy; even while he has generally stayed in the background supporting, debating, and pushing – vociferously – behind the scenes.
Paul’s been at the centre of mountain biking advocacy in the UK – both metaphorically and geographically – at a time where the sport has grown exponentially. His experience in the surfing and climbing community providing a strong backbone to his campaigning for the embryonic mountain biking community emerging in his adopted home of the Peak District.
And he hasn’t been one to chase the limelight or recognition for those efforts, instead focusing his time on the debate and relationship building rather than back-patting and fanfare. Despite his increasingly demanding “proper job” being marketing, Paul’s spent his time pushing the principle of Peak District MTB rather than the personality. We’ll miss his integrity on the committee.
But he won’t be completely out of the picture. Paul’s dedication to fact-based debate has made him a critical and influential voice on the Local Access Forum, where his being invited to represent the voice of mountain bikers in the Peak District kicked off Peak District MTB as we know it.
I’m sure if Paul thought hard enough he could find some highlights during his tenure. Sitting on Rushup Edge celebrating the birthday of the Rushup campaign may not have been one of them. Nor maybe the many hours he spent on the phone trying to get responses from evasive council officials.
But then maybe, as he enjoys hoiking his body atop his single-speed rigid fat bike up one of the permissive trails his efforts helped to establish, or as a passing mountain biker thanks him as they ride past enjoying a classic trail his efforts have helped to protect, just maybe he’ll crack a smile as he heads off riding – beloved dog alongside – knowing he’s played a part in establishing mountain biking as an important part of the outdoors not just in the Peak District but beyond.
Cheers Paul. And thanks.